Monday, January 18, 2010

Blame Paul Blart

It will be a profound shame, if the Segway's lasting memory is the horribly unfunny 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop'.

I would hate to think of Dean Kamen, the Segway's inventor, sitting on a porch, up there in New Hampshire, staring, zombie-like, into a lake, the image of the corpulant Kevin James in his head, quietly mumbling, droning, on-and-on, "Paul Blart: Mall Cop ... Paul Blart: Mall Cop ..."

Word recently seeped out (talk about a news dump, it was announced on Christmas Day) that Segway was sold to a British Millionaire, an investor in the Segway's U.K dealership.

And, without, the soaring image of millions of people, darting around town, doing errands, going to work, getting coffee (you just know, had they become ubiquitous, Starbucks would have rolled out new stores, geared towards the Segway, perhaps scooping up out-of-business car washes, retro-fitting them to grab your coffee, without having to slow down).

Which leads us to Chris Smith, on last Saturday;

O'Brien: Segway reminds us that even the best get it wrong sometimes

Today, when we think of the Segway, it seems like a self-contained joke. When it appears in popular culture, like in a movie such as "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," it's for comic effect. The Segway has managed to enter the pantheon of novelty items, albeit on the more expensive end of the scale.

It's hard to remember just how much hype greeted its arrival in 2001. The Segway's inventor, Dean Kamen, had a strong reputation in engineering circles, having invented the AutoSyringe, a mobile dialysis system, and the iBot, an all-terrain electric wheelchair. People waited eagerly to see what mysterious wonder he was concocting next.

Interest was so intense that the Segway was unveiled in December 2001 — on ABC's "Good Morning America," a product launch to die for. Not long after, Jay Leno was demonstrating one on "The Tonight Show." In a Time magazine story, Doerr predicted Segway would be the fastest company to reach $1 billion in sales.


But the revolution failed to come to pass. For as Wired magazine wrote last month in a retrospective on the Segway: "With a price tag that started around $5,000, the Segway PT pretty much doomed itself to a niche market: rich guys who aren't afraid to embarrass themselves in public."

Yes, rich guys embarrassing themselves.

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